December 17, 2014

SVSU educator secures $5K grant to develop middle school Spanish language lessons

Marlena Bravender, a Saginaw Valley State University assistant professor of teacher education, has received a $5,000 grant recently from the National Education Association Foundation to research ways to integrate online language simulations into Spanish foreign language lessons.

She and co-applicant Virginia Martin, a Spanish teacher at Grand Blanc West Middle School in Grand Blanc, this fall began using the funds to design and share lessons for middle school students. The lessons will help students understand authentic situations in which Spanish is spoken, Bravender said.

“I want the students to learn and retain the content,” she said of the project's goal. “What drives me is that they're motivated to learn, and this gives them motivation.”

The simulations - using text, photos, art and audio - set up situations that involve the use of Spanish language, then quizzes students on those situations in English.

“If you respond incorrectly, you might see someone on screen looking at you funny,” Bravender said. “It's kind of like a choose-your-own adventure game. At the end, it produces a score and says which objectives the students are not hitting.”

Students can access the simulations on computers and smart phones alike.

Bravender said other colleagues in education have inquired about the program. As a result, three more classes in K-12 schools in Michigan are in the early stages of using the simulation.

Saginaw's Nouvel Catholic Central High School, Reese Middle School and Holly Academy all have students using the program. Students from grades 4 through 9 are involved.

Bravender and Martin received $5,000 of the $168,000 in NEA Foundation grants recently awarded to 42 educators nationally.